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Presidential Address 1988 After the first 200 years: The future of ecology and ecologists in Australia

McComb, A.J. (1989) Presidential Address 1988 After the first 200 years: The future of ecology and ecologists in Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology, 14 (1). pp. 1-11.

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This Address examines the current concerns of ecologists. There is instability in the organization of science at a political level, in funding bodies, and in organizations such as CSIRO and tertiary education institutions. There is less funding for research and development in Australia than in other developed countries, mainly because of poor funding from the private sector, and funds available to the new Australian Research Council are small in relation to applications for support. These factors affect career opportunities for ecologists, although students continue to be attracted to the area.

The state of the Australian environment leaves much to be desired, with widespread land degradation (including erosion and salination), deterioration in water quality, and disease in natural ecosystems; many species are endangered, and there is concern about forest management.

Widespread environmental problems occur despite the fact that, for more than a century, those concerned with land management have been educated in tertiary institutions. More might be done to equip graduates better for solving Australian problems, for informing the public about methods which can be used to correct environmental degradation, and for disseminating research results more directly to managers. While all scientists should emphasize the importance of basic research, it is argued that more recognition should be given to the application of science to management.

Among positive aspect of the present climate are a government commitment to increase numbers in senior school years and in tertiary institutions; entry of graduates into consulting work; use of conservation strategies to enhance interaction between ecology and industry as illustrated by mining, agriculture and forestry; increased activity by organizations which raise funds from the private sector; definition of research priorities; and the identification which Australians have with an image of the countryside.

With this framework of closer links between ecology, practical problem-solving, and support from industry and the private sector, it is argued that significant progress will be made in the years ahead.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
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